Imagine if you could get fit and have fun while doing it. Imagine if you could fortify your mental as well as your physical prowess. Imagine a place that is as much about social gathering as it is about working out. No way, you say? Then we challenge you to a round of indoor rock climbing at Hub Climbing in Markham.
Rock climbing may look easy, especially if it is in a controlled, indoor environment, and that goes double when you watch kids do it. They go up and down with apparent ease, both on the auto-belay (tethered) routes, as well as on the bouldering (untethered) ones. Don’t be fooled, though. It’s harder than it looks.
“It’s gruelling,” Hub Climbing owner Steven Brown admits good-naturedly. “It is hard work, no question. But it is also super fun. It’s one of those types of fitness activities where you don’t realize you’re working out. You’re just enjoying yourself.”
Unique to Hub Climbing is a 23-foot dragon structure. It requires the climber to invert him or herself while climbing without a rope. To dismount, the climber must find the courage to let go and fall backwards into a pit filled with 22,000 foam cubes. Another more recent addition is a video game climbing wall onto which a projector casts a variety of games.
“It can be two people or one, depending on what the game is,” he explains. “In one of the games you could have monsters chasing you, and the objective is not to let them touch you. In another, you play pong against an opponent. It adds a zany, whacky element to physical fitness.”
Brown started climbing about seven or eight years ago when a debilitating illness landed him in the hospital for a significant period. Upon trying it, he fell in love with the sport. One thing he found, however, was that other climbing centres tended to be intimidating for newcomers. When he and his wife decided to open Hub Climbing, they aimed to make it inclusive for all ranges of experience.
“We wanted to create an environment that’s welcoming for everyone,” he says. “A clean environment, not chalky and full of pros, that beginners could come and fall in love with climbing the way I did.”
There is a cognitive challenge to rock climbing in addition to a physical one because climbers must plan their ascent ahead of time. To accommodate varying levels of experience, Hub Climbing lays out different routes by tagging certain rock formations. Coloured tags denote degrees of difficulty for each route, and completing a course by sticking to one colour turns each challenge into a puzzle. Arguably one of the most significant benefits to rock climbing is the confidence it instils in children.
“We have a lot of kids who come in, and they find they can do things they didn’t know they could do,” Brown says. “It’s one of our favourite things to see when they didn’t know they could get this high or make it up a particular route.”
For families, climbing provides a unique bonding experience, which often can’t be found in more traditional organized sports.
“It’s great to see them cheering each other on as they get stronger,” he says. “Also, we see parents trying to compete with their kids, and it’s funny to watch. This is an area where kids naturally do well. They have the body-to-weight ratio, the lack of fear, and the flexibility. I think parents tend to want to show their kids what they can do, so we often get the adults stepping up and pushing themselves to keep up with their kids.”
If you’ve never been climbing before, Brown urges you to give it a try.
“It’s super fun,” he says. “It’s like a bug. You just get hooked. It’s an adventure, and you’ll find out things about yourself that you didn’t know, like that you’re stronger than you thought you’d be. You’ll fall in love with that experience of fighting your fears and how good it feels to conquer them.”
Hub Climbing is located in Markham at 165 McIntosh Drive.
Written by: Katie Ryalen